Saturday, February 25, 2012

My road to publishing


As an end to the How to Write Your Stupid Book series, I thought it fitting to share how I became published. It may bore you to death so I apologize in advance for that.

1. I wrote a terrible book. It had no premise. No voice. No genre. It took up 10 Hilroy coil bound notebooks because I wrote it long hand.

2. I wrote another book. It was better only because it was typed.

3. I sent many, many query letters and sample chapters by snail mail to many, many agents.

4. I stalked my mail box for months until slo-o-o-wly the form rejections began rolling in.

5. I wrote a third book and I went to a writers' conference in my home town. I attended every single session on every topic for 3 days until my head exploded and I came home.

6. I sent many, many query letters and synopsis to many, many agents.

7. Rejections rolled in over a period of months, however, a FEW asked me to resubmit my next project.

8. I wrote a fourth book. I went back to the writers' conference (9 months pregnant with my 4th child) and pitched my book to none other than THE Donald Maass (because I didn’t know what a foolish idea that was at the time). Through the entire pitch I was having contractions. He was polite and kind but didn’t ask to see a copy of my book.

9. I wrote PART of a fifth book. It wasn’t bad. It had MY voice. It was MY genre which was a cross between mystery and romance. Someone told me it was Chicklit and I thought that was gum. I pitched it to author Nancy Warren who said it had great potential and suggested I send it to Red Dress Ink (a division of Harlequin) because I wouldn’t need an agent to submit to them. Everyone told me it would take MONTHS for Red Dress Ink (RDI) to get back to me because they were extremely backlogged and this was still in the day when everything had to be snail mailed.

10. I received a letter in the mail from Kathryn Lye, editor of Red Dress Ink, 2 weeks later asking to see the completed book immediately. But I’d only written 3 chapters.

11. With 4 kids under 10 years of age I wrote night and day for 6 weeks until I completed Cat’s Pajamas (aka Dating Can Be Deadly) and I sent it in before Kathryn Lye and Red Dress Ink could forget my name.

12. I received a phone call from Red Dress Ink wanting to buy my book. I was cleaning a turtle aquarium at the time of the call and was up to my elbows in turtle shit. I will never forget how great that was.

13. After Dating Can Be Deadly came out I was able to find an agent (big surprise) but it wasn’t a good fit. I was unable to sell another book until the Ghost Dusters series a few years later.

14. This year I spoke as a presenter (for the 3rd time) at the same writers’ conference that has helped me all these years. I also sat next to Donald Maass at lunch and we chatted about life in general and I didn’t once bring up the fact that my water almost broke all over his fancy new shoes back in 1999 and that he didn’t ask to see my query letter. But I did get back at him by purchasing Robert Dugoni’s t-shirt at a raffle and insisting Donald be the one to remove it from Robert’s body hee hee.

I share these points only because I want you to know if your plan is to be published you need to keep at it. Actually, no matter WHAT your dream is, you need to keep going after it. Even if it means you’ll have to clean some turtle poop.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yup - 2 More!!


Yes, it's true :D

I am super excited and THRILLED to announce that I’ve been contracted by Penguin Books to write two more Ghost Dusters books!

The new stories will be written for Penguin’s InterMix eBook line.

I don’t have an official release date for the new books because I have to write them first!

Thanks so much for your continued support!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 7 – S & M


S & M = Synopsis and Manuscripts so get your mind out of the gutter!

Today I’ll discuss the dreaded synopsis. Writers fear them.Agents devour them.Editors require them.
There’s no getting away from the fact that you will have to condense your four hundred pages into just a couple if you want to make a submission to the powers that be. And, yes, I said a COUPLE pages. As in two.

You may have heard some people say a synopsis should be six to eight pages. Or ten. I’ve heard some authors like to send in a hefty twenty page synopsis. That might be more appealing to you because it’s easier to chip away at your hundreds of pages and narrow it down to twenty. Two might seem crazy impossible.

Is it harder to do it my way? Yes. Then why the hell should you do it my way? Because I told you so. Sorry, I was channeling my mom there.

I have only one reason for suggesting a two-page synopsis and that’s because it worked for me. Maybe a ten or twenty page synopsis was good for somebody else but here on my blog I can only say what works for me because I just can’t speak for anybody else.
So how can you boil down 100,000 words to 500? First of all, you need to re-think the purpose of the synopsis. The reason you write a synopsis is to whet the appetite of the reader so they’ll read the book. You want them intrigued, fascinated and entertained and DYING to dig into the rest of the story. When you’re submitting to a potential agent and/or editor do you want them slogging through a long, tedious synopsis until they’re too tired or, heaven forbid BORED, to read your wonderful chapters that follow? I didn’t think so.

Yes, it’s true that some published authors get away with selling on a mere smidge and hint of a synopsis: “Joe and Jane are fighting crime and then some really cool things happen and everyone lives happily ever after.” Probably you won’t sell anything based on a sentence like that until you’ve reached NYT stardom. Until then, you need to do it the old fashioned way. Steal from others.

Okay, I don’t exactly mean steal. It’s more like borrowing. Go to your own bookshelves which are, hopefully, heavy with novels. Pickup a few of your favorites and read the descriptions on the back. That, my friends, is a great way to describe a book and it’ll set the tone you need to write your own synopsis. Make it leap off the page. Make it so that when they reach the bottom of page two the reader eagerly picks up chapter one because they can’t wait to read more.

Do I hear you crying out, “Prove it! Dammit, Wendy, why can’t I see YOUR two-page synopsis as an example?!”

Okay, you don’t have to whine … but you do need to jump through a couple hoops.

Until the end of the month, if you “like” my author page on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter (see the side bar for both) then I will email you a copy of my two-page synopsis for Remains of the Dead. You’ll also have to email me (wendy at wendyroberts dot com) and put “synopsis” in the subject.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 6 – When do I go on Oprah?


First of all, the Oprah ship has sailed so forget that.

Okay, let’s assume you finished your book. You gave it to friends to read and they all told you it was wonderful because they’re your friends and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Or maybe it IS wonderful. Who am I to judge? My first book was a convoluted story about a cup of flour’s journey to be a birthday cake (seriously).

So what’s your next step?
You need to edit.

“Hold on just a damn minute, Wendy, I’ve already edited this thing a gazillion times!”

Yeah? Well then one more won’t kill you.

“So what if there are a few mistakes? If an editor loves it, won’t they be glad to fix it?”

Maybe. But the world of publishing is highly competitive. Given a hundred manuscripts arriving in her email query box every week, do you think an editor or agent is gonna say, “Wow this one is great AND it needs work so I’ll be sure to pick this manuscript over the ten others that don’t need repair!”?

So now that I’ve convinced you to edit, don’t do it.

First, take a step back and work on something else, hopefully, an entirely different book. Give your brain a rest from those weary characters and that tired old premise and start something fresh. Then come back to your story in a couple weeks or a couple months. You thought you caught all the grammar errors and plot holes the first few times? I’m betting you’ll find even more this go round.

What about critique groups? They can be great. If you can, you should join RWA, MWA and any other writing organization that gives you access to like minded individuals and wonderful critique groups. But if you join a critique group, go in with your eyes, ears and mind wide open. If a lot of people take issue with something in your story, you should probably take a look at it but, in the end, it’s YOUR story and you need to decide what goes and what stays.

So NOW can I send it out to agents, editors and Oprah?

How about one more tip? Read your dialogue out loud. At least some of it. Why? Because that’s the best way to tell if your characters actually sound like real people -- people you know and hang out with -- or if they are stiff and formal like they’ve just stepped out of Ms. Hatty’s Haughty Finishing School.

Okay, I’m off to ready some dialogue. Out loud. To my dog. Nothing like a captive audience!